Harmless Life-Antidotes

The fact that we have so much time/money/energy left over from the serious pursuit of a vital life to spend on products, services, plans, that promise to do for us what we could better do ourselves is a nice position to be in… if it’s true.

As you know, we promote the umbrella concept “Quality Of Life” as a first-line strategy (details here), but for some people, the act of creating uncommonly high levels of that quality is actually so simple that it doesn’t seem like they’re doing enough. What a nice problem to have, huh? Just to address this briefly I would say that it’s quite alright, in fact preferable, that universal QOL practices are the only strategy you employ. That alone is guaranteed to provide you with a superior experience of your life, and a little time left over for some leisurely pursuits. And (this is an important “and”), adding anything to that strategy carries the significant risk of undermining those uncommonly great results.

But what of the myriad products and services being promoted under the banner of health and fitness that aren’t a part of QOL? We’re talking about supplements, sports drinks and shakes, fitness trackers, weight loss schemes, diets, exercise routines, workout equipment, and props of all kinds; the list is long. “Some of them sound pretty attractive and might make my life just a bit better”, is a thought that might pop into your head when you hear about one of these? In my years of health coaching experience, I encountered the even more prevalent attitude that these are effective antidotes to toxic lifestyle choices which we know are harmful but don’t want to change.” This message is often derived from the covert or overt message presented as truth in advertising for many of these products and services. Just to be clear, that isn’t true nor has it ever been; there are no antidotes to poor lifestyle choices… there are only cover-ups.

Another reasonable question would be: “what if I’m already engaging in a QOL lifestyle, but also want to engage in an ‘antidote strategy’ or 2 along with my QOL? What’s the harm if I sample a little life- or body-hyping as long as I’m also healthy?”

Great question.

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of most of these “enhancers” or “life-antidotes”. But I want you know exactly why it’s tough to find any today that actually have the goal of Quality Of Life as their purpose. Here’s the briefest explanation I can produce to support that position:

Part of the answer can be found in the fact that they are all, without exception, money-making schemes for someone. That means, among other things, that any and all claims of benefit to you are suspect, and are never, ever, guaranteed to be true; profits will always be the prime directive. Are you ready to spend your money and your time in the hopes that those fantastic-sounding claims actually are.

Then, there’s the fact that all of those clever and compelling sales pitches are designed to tell you something that you had always hoped was true, not what really is true. And they all promise to replace something harder, or avoid it altogether, with the same or better results. In your heart, do you really believe that’s true.

When it comes to something you can trust to give your Quality Of Life a boost, anything with a brand name is supremely suspect.

It’s also interesting to note that, in the midst of all the marketing rhetoric there is rarely, if ever, any mention of a downside or side effect unless it’s mandated by some federal agency. So many health related products are designed specifically to skirt those mandates so that they are not required to tell you about any negative effects. You’ll be left to discover those on your own. And there’s always a downside and a side effect. In fact, one of the clearest distinctions between a QOL strategy (everything described here) and a life-antidote strategy is that there is never a side effect with the former, and there is always a side effect with the latter.

Here’s another glimpse at the seedy underbelly of life-antidotes; take note of how many are designed to help you win the person-against-person competition that is the driving force of modern life. In other words, a majority of these life-enhancers are about winning the game of being better than someone else. Western culture is no longer about “keeping up with the Joneses”; now it’s about kicking the crap out of them with your superior life. It’s about having a pumped up this-part-of-the-body, or skinnier that, or better looking the other thing, or bragging rights over some other quantifiable quality of your life; typically cosmetic or otherwise superficial. It’s always there, and so ubiquitous that you probably always believed it was just a normal benefit of the health process. It’s only a part of a competitive process that leads to something other than health.

But there’s still more reasons why, once the glow of those lofty promises settles a bit, you’ll probably conclude that it’s not worth it to even dabble. These so-called life-antidotes will always distract you, consciously or unconsciously, from the work of actually improving your life in the ways that matter. It’s never easy to connect the dots between the time/money/energy you will devote to those products and the time/money/energy that is diverted from maximizing an authentic Quality Of Life.

We’ve all got more work to do on the foundational stuff, which will always come first.

On that last point I could fill a book with examples of how I watched that play out in my own health club for many years. I had always promoted purely natural forms of exercise in keeping with QOL principles; things like zero assistance from clothing—like special shoes or gloves, or any type of equipment that doesn’t directly mimic things found in nature. Eventually in their progress I turn clients loose to work out on their own, and shortly after that I would begin to see these things pop up in the gym. The lesson for me is how compelling the sales job is for these things, and how susceptible we all are to buying in to the competitive edge over the QOL edge.

In a perfect world, you would live a consistently squeaky clean lifestyle for an extended period of time, and would then—one at a time—test these products for yourself to see if they actually provided any benefit over and above what you had already created. Chances are the answer would be no, but there’s a far greater chance that this perfect scenario will never present itself. Given that, we’ve all got more work to do on the foundational stuff, which will always come first.

I don’t know if I’ve convinced any of you to just abandon the hope of a true lifestyle antidote, or that it’s likely not true that you’re already doing everything you can and still want the greater experience of life promised by some of these products, but I do recognize that it’s probably not a message you wanted to hear. I understand how the marketplace of ideas and schemes can be so compelling that you will believe; after all, that’s the job of business. I also get that I’ve set the bar very high regarding standards, and many of you will feel that you’ll never achieve anything close to that. If that’s true for you, my advice is to simply make sure that whatever time/money/energy you have left over from your efforts goes into coming just a little bit closer than you did yesterday, rather than a purported antidote for the weaknesses. I appreciate all of you willing to give this some thought.

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